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When South West farmers, Odua Chamber of Commerce launched Agbetuntun.

As part of efforts to return the Southwest to its position of pride as a major player in the agricultural sector and ensure that the region's arable land and good weather is put to good use with the introduction of a technology-based platform that will attract youths, the Agbetuntun project was launched last week in Ibadan. YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE reports that the project is a new lease of life for the sector as things will be done in a way that will engender youths to agriculture.

Agriculture used to be the mainstay of the country's economy, providing 70 per cent of Nigeria's foreign exchange and there was an abundance of food for the populace. In fact, before the discovery of oil in Oloibiri in 1956, the agricultural sector was the industrial and economic platform depended on by the nation and the leading indices in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the Southwest was a force to reckon with in all spheres especially agriculture.

Though there was complete reliance on traditional tools, the Southwest was a homogenous social entity that was important to the well being of the country. In fact, the economic well being of Nigeria as a country depended mainly on the southwest and its farm produce as well as the income from the export of its cash crops.

But the story is not the same again. Today, farming is on the decline, there exists at present only few farmers, majority of who are old men as most young men prefer to move into wage labour. Also, due to civilization, there is shortage of land for cultivation as well as shortage of labour and a low level of technology.

However, food security experts have stated that the problem is not only about the government, adding that the greatest challenge has to do with the orientation of people about agriculture and emphasizing the need for people especially youths to go back to the farm.

This is premised on the belief that in Nigeria today, agriculture is greatly undermined and underrated as a business for the unlettered. In fact, many youths see farming as a venture that is strictly for the aged while the rich meant for believes it is a job for the poor.

And to curb this trend and ensure food security in the southwest while returning its lost agricultural glory, a new project tagged Agbetuntun which is essentially a transformation approach to farming using digital procedures to change the narrative of agriculture and agricultural business in southwest Nigeria.

Agbetuntun is mainly a platform to encourage youths to go into agriculture which looks at their lifestyle and involves the use of technology and innovations to enhance agric business in southwest Nigeria in a value chain procedure that creates an integrated approach from the farm to the table so that there will be consistent and sustainable development in agriculture and agric business

'We say sustainable because it will span years and structures are being put in place to ensure the southwest goes back to its roots and grow with the proceeds of agriculture like during the time of the Sage, Chief Obafemi awolowo, who built legacies from agriculture even during the days of analog. So if digital approach is used, significant increase will be witnessed in farm produce, wealth and food security,' Chief Kola Akosile, President of ODUACCIMA stated.

Agbetuntun is taking off with a pilot of 20, 000 farmers cutting across the traditional southwestern states; Lagos, Ogun, oyo, ondo, Osun and Ekiti and also extending to Edo, Kogi and Kwara because there are Yoruba speaking people there and in five years, the pool is expected to have a million farmers with the population having 70 per cent youths by creating structures and system that will entice youths to agriculture

Speaking further on the project launch, Chief Akosile stated that, 'we are trying to look at recent technology and use it to entice youths into sustainable and profitable agriculture while involving farmers, stakeholders, women groups, mechanization partners and the Miyetti Allah to cover the whole value chain of financing, mechanization, farming, agronomy services, guaranteed access to market, weather forecast and information dash boards to change narrative of agric business in southwest and Nigeria as a whole

The project powered by Odua Chambers of Commerce, a regional apex body for organized private sector, as a sustainable commercial orientation will include existing farmers but will primarily pull youths in because of demographics and for sustainable future. The youths will be selected through the chambers of commerce, the chambers will be the focal point of activities at each state level and each interested youth will be profiled through an Agbetuntun application online which they will download to access the form and fill online to send in their details, the office will collate the information for final selection of interested people in a process that is basically technology driven.

'We will use a mobile app to chart the map for activities of the youths and the farm. You can monitor the farm clusters from your office through technology like GPRS, drones and sensors that will send information direct to the supervising team without them going to the farm. There is a provision cost of N300 per hectare and we have many partners; Bank of Industry, IITA, Association of Nigeria Cooperative Exporters (ANCE), UKAID, DFID PEARL, NIPOST, MACBA, DAWN and Odua Investment Limited among others

Chief Matthew Aderiye, Chairman ANVL is one of the partners, he stated that, 'we are basically into training youths as agric service provider. Agriculture without mechanization is a waste of time and with proper mechanization, affordable mechanization, agric will have a major impact on lives of youths in southwest and our graduates will stop riding okada due to lack of industrialization. We train young people as agric service provider to enable them to acquire mechanized equipment with collaboration with BOI

For Princess Adesola Ogunleye, the national coordinator of Country Women Association of Nigeria founded 1982, 'it is a great development for women because of the rate at which women farm and become old unexpectedly but digital technology farming will stop the high rate of excessive aging among women and make farming easier.'

Prince Segun Dasaolu, the Chairman of Southwest Farmers Forum explained that Agbetuntun came up as a result of series of engagement among farmers in the southwest, 'farmers forum was part of that engagement and we came out with this result oriented program to rejuvenate what our forefathers left behind but went comatose, we cannot do it unless we put our house together. We are actually here to start the project because southwest before now had been a bedrock of food production but today, we are consuming rather than being a producer.

'We, as southwestern farmers will no longer allow this; we must leave a legacy and remove the trend of our graduate children riding okada. That was not what Chief Obafemi Awolowo left behind as a legacy, he put up farm settlements and other programmes that will accommodate all to engage in agriculture irrespective of your qualifications. We now want to reason together to give our youths and coming generation life rather than the current suffering. We have potential to engage all stakeholders including government to support agriculture, we don't want to import food anymore but to produce and feed ourselves, that is our goal,' he said.

Alaba Falase of Riby Technologies also stated that as a financial technology company dedicated to creating better access to finance and research, they will help the cause of Agbetuntun with GPS mapping and GPS geofencing while they would build a platform to monitor the process end to end to make agriculture sustainable

And the Seriki Fulani of Abeokuta and Chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBA), southwest, Alhaji Mohammed Kabir Labar, expressed the readiness of his association to work with farmers. 'We are looking into ways of aligning our programmes so that crisis will not erupt among farmers and cattle rearers. We do not want this, we have come of age and we are willing to work together to ensure that farmers efforts are not destroyed, we are here to stop the crisis especially in the southwest. You have our support and we want farmers to gain profits from their efforts,' he said.
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Publication:Nigerian Tribune (Oyo State, Nigeria)
Geographic Code:6NIGR
Date:May 1, 2018
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